Laser scientists win 2018 Nobel Physics Prize

Pablo Tucker
October 5, 2018

He is the oldest person ever named as a laureate for any of the prestigious awards.

Strickland is only the third woman to ever win the Nobel physics prize.

Strickland's award was the first Nobel Prize in physics to go to a woman since 1963, when it was won by Maria Goeppert-Mayer; the only other woman to win for physics was Marie Curie in 1903. "I did cite her in my own thesis", she told a briefing from the University of Waterloo where she teaches.

The Nobel Prize will be just the latest accolade Dr Strickland has received for her work.

That women in physics have been a big topic of conversation in the last week and surrounding her achievement didn't go unnoticed by Strickland.

Jessica Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London who was at the CERN event and unhappy about Strumia's comments, said having a female Nobel victor was also important given the current fight over US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is facing sexual misconduct allegations.

She said that while women rarely won the top honours in science, demographics were changing rapidly and awards bodies needed to keep up with changing demographics.

"If somebody else thinks something that you don't believe in, just think they're wrong and you're right and keep going", Strickland said. And though it's reassuring to hear that Dr. Strickland has not experienced harassment based on her gender in her career, these experiences are a definite departure from numerous contemporary conversations had around sexism in the science industry.

Strickland's words moved Kristi Webb, a physics graduate student, to tears.

A trio of American, French and Canadian scientists have won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics for breakthroughs in laser technology that have turned light beams into precision tools for everything from eye surgery to micro-machining. "This was at the very beginning of her career, but she's done a million things since then and that's the dream".

Two of Tuesday's Nobel Prize winners enabled new studies of matter by allowing scientists to produce more powerful bursts of laser light, an official of the American Institute of Physics says. "I'm honoured to be one of those women".

The inventions revolutionized the field, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its announcement. The high-intensity lasers are now used in eye surgeries, data storage and to investigate subatomic particles at resolutions never before realized.

Mourou and Strickland's technique is known as chirped pulse amplification, CPA.

He was found guilty of one rape but was acquitted of the other because the victim said she was asleep at the time and judges said her account was not reliable.

"I was always afraid I wasn't smart enough", he said. Mourou was her supervisor.

Strickland's part in the award was made in December 1985, with the publication of her doctoral dissertation while at the University of Rochester.

In May, the Swedish Academy postponed the 2018 prize with the intention of awarding it in 2019.

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